Depressive Symptoms in Joint Disease

Patients with joint disease often screen positive for depressive symptoms, according to research from Switzerland.

Depression is often found in patients with joint disease, according to research published in the journal Frontiers in Public Health.

Researchers from the University of Basel in Switzerland conducted phone interviews with nearly 15,000 people in Switzerland in order to estimate the association between depressive symptoms and physical diseases. The questions were later supplemented with additional written questions during the study period, which took place in 2007. The patients were aged at least 15 years and recruited from the Swiss Health Survey. The patients were assessed for age, sex, education, occupation, and household income.

The researchers found that the patients with depressive symptoms were associated with arthrosis and arthritis and any indicators of physical disease. This was still true after the investigators tested multiple controls.

“A better understanding of the association between depressive symptoms and physical diseases in Switzerland is the basis for a better health care provision for people suffering from mental disorders as well as physical diseases,” lead author Gunther Meinlschmidt explained in a press release.

Just 5.2 percent (740 total) of the screened patients tested positive for depressive symptoms. Arthrosis and arthritis were the most common physical diseases — found in 10.9 percent of patients – followed by high blood pressure (10.6 percent), allergies/ hay fever (8.9 percent), and migraine (6.1 percent). Other common ailments found in these depressed patients were asthma, diabetes, stomach ulcer/ duodenal ulcer, osteoporosis, COPD/ emphysema, myocardial infarction, apoplexy, renal disease/ renal calculo, and cancer/ blastoma. After initial testing, depressive symptoms was associated with all of these ailments, though after assessing the data with the Holm Bonferroni correction, the depressive symptoms link remained only between the arthrosis and arthritis patients.

“Our findings contribute to a better understanding of the comorbidity of depressive symptoms and arthrosis and arthritis in Switzerland,” the authors wrote, while commenting that they believe that their findings can inform future estimates of mental and physical health care costs.

One limitation of the study, the authors noted, was the inability to draw causality of the estimated associations. However, the researchers were able to determine that depression is linked to reduced physical activity, which has been linked to musculoskeletal disorders. Additionally, as reported elsewhere on MD Magazine, exercise continues to demonstrate benefits in combating arthritis, which can inhibit the development of depressive symptoms.